Men's Basketball Looks To Stop 3-Game Losing Skid

Feb. 4, 2005

Pullman, Wash. -

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The USC men's basketball team--now 9-12 overall and 2-8 in Pac-10 play--looks to snap a three-game losing skid as it plays the Washington State Cougars (9-10, 4-6) at Friel Court in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. USC, coming off a 30-point loss to Washington, is trying to regroup in time to qualify for the Pac-10 tournament in early March. Following Trojan head coach Henry Bibby's dismissal on Dec. 6, the Trojans are 7-10 under the direction of interim head coach Jim Saia. Troy is led by three talented underclassmen in the back court: sophomore shooting guard Lodrick Stewart (14.2 ppg), freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt (11.6 ppg) and freshman swingman Nick Young (11.0 ppg). Six seniors are also featured.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON STATE -- The Cougars--9-10 overall and 4-6 in conference--employ a methodical style of play that slows the game down on both ends of the court. WSU leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense (55.9 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.396). However, the Cougars are also last in the league in scoring offense (55.1) and shooting (.390). WSU is led by senior forward Thomas Kelati, who leads the squad in scoring (13.4) and was recently named Pac-10 Player of the Week.

NEW COACH ON THE HORIZON -- It's been a coaching whirlwind for USC this season. First ninth-year coach Henry Bibby was fired on Dec. 6, and replaced by interim coach Jim Saia. Then former Utah coach Rick Majerus took the job on Dec. 15, only to back out five days later, citing health reasons. Friday, Jan. 14, saw the hiring of Tim Floyd, who previously coached in college at Iowa State (where he had great success, posting three-straight 20-win seasons). Floyd will spend this season as a Trojan assistant so that he can recruit, but he will not be involved in coaching the 2004-2005 USC team. Saia will finish out this season for Troy.

NEXT UP -- The Trojans return home to play Arizona and Arizona State at the Sports Arena next week.

SERIES - This is the 98th contest between USC and Washington State. USC holds a 62-35 advantage. The first meeting was in 1949, with Washington State winning, 55-52. The Trojans have won four of the last five road games against the Cougars.

LAST MEETING: Washington State shot a blistering .574 from the field to beat the Trojans at the Sports Arena, 69-52, earlier this season.

THE COACHES:

USC: The Trojans are coached by Jim Saia, who is 7-10 so far serving as interim head coach following the dismissal of Henry Bibby on Dec. 6.

WASHINGTON STATE: Dick Bennett is in his second year at Washington State, with a 22-26 record. He is 475-284 lifetime as a head coach.

TV: None

Radio: KMPC AM 1540(PBP: Rory Markas; Color: Jim Hefner)Live Audio/Stats: www.usctrojans.com

LAST GAME -- Tre Simmons scored a career-high 29 points to lead No. 13 Washington over USC, 99-69. The Huskies shot a USC-opponent-season-high 60% from the field and also dished out a Trojan-opponent-record 32 assists as Troy lost its third straight. USC played tough for the first 16 minutes, trailing just 31-27. But a 16-2 Husky run turned a close game into an 18-point halftime cushion. Washington led by as many as 41 in the game. Lod Stewart led the Trojans with 13 points, while Nick Young added 11.

HOT LOD -- Sophomore guard Lodrick Stewart is one of the top outside shooters in the Pac-10. He leads the Trojans in scoring this season (14.2 ppg). He has scored in double figures in 15 of the last 18 games. He also has scored 20 points or more six times in that stretch (including a career-high 27 against San Diego). In his career, he has eight games of 20 points or more . He is sixth in the Pac-10 in 3-point FG% (.433) and is second in 3-pointers made (2.76 pg). In conference games, he leads the league in 3-pointers per game (3.0) and his .455 3-point percentage is tied for fifth-best.

PRUITT CAN DO IT -- Freshman point guard Gabe Pruitt--known as 'Smilin' Gabe' to Sports Arena PA announcer Petros Papadakis because of his happy demeanor--is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young point guards in the country. The Los Angeles native didn't waste much time in game one--a check of the records indicates that when Pruitt co-led the Trojans in scoring against UC Irvine with 13 points, it was the first time since the advent of freshmen eligibility that a freshman had led the Trojans in scoring in a season opener. But Pruitt--who has a style reminiscent of NBA star Jalen Rose--wasn't just a one-game wonder. He currently is second in the Pac-10 in steals (2.05 per game) and is ninth in assists (3.48 avg.). Known for his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, he is second on the Trojans in scoring (11.6 avg.) and minutes (29.9) and leads the team in free throw percentage (.727), assists (3.6) and steals (2.0). A starter in 14 games at point, he has shot .500 or better from the field in 13 of USC's 21 games. As a result, his current .486 shooting from the field is the best ever by a Trojan freshman guard. In conference games, he is shooting .476 from 3-point range, fourth-best in the league. Only two other freshmen--teammate Nick Young and UCLA's Jordan Farmar--top his 12.2 scoring average in conference games. In the last six games Pruitt has averaged 14.3 points on 27-of-51 shooting (.529) from the field overall,17-of-25 from 3-point range (.680) and 15-of-19 from the free throw line (.789).

NOODLES -- USC's recruiting class was ranked as high as seventh by one expert. The two jewels of the class--and the prime building blocks of USC teams to come--are Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young. While Pruitt's exploits were noted earlier, it is Young-- nicknamed 'Noodles'--who is making the most noise of late. An explosive 6-6 swingman who can jump out of the gym, Young is averaging 13.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in the last 13 games. He leads the Trojans in scoring in conference games (14.3) and has four games of 20 points or more in his last 10 outings. In fact, he leads all Pac-10 freshman in scoring in conference games. Overall, his 11.0 scoring average is third-best on the Trojans.

YOUTH IS NOT WASTED ON YOUNG, PRUITT AND STEWART -- Sophomore Lod Stewart and freshmen Gabe Pruiit and Nick Young are the top three scorers on the Trojan basketball team. Between the three of them, they account for 49.4% of USC's points scored this season (773 out of 1,563). They average a combined 36.8 points per game. In conference games, Young and Pruitt are the No. 1 and No. 3 scorers among Pac-10 freshmen.

SENIORITIS -- The Trojans have six seniors--guards Errick and Derrick Craven, and forwards Rory O'Neil, Jeff McMillan, Nick Curtis and Greg Guenther--the most of any team in the Pac-10. Between the six of them, they have played 11,786 minutes, scored 4,114 points, snagged 2,334 rebounds and dished out 740 assists in their careers.

BALANCING ACTS -- USC is 5-0 this year in games where at least five players score in double figures.

3-POINT KINGS -- The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made per game (7.62). USC is 7-0 in games where it hits at least nine three pointers.

STEAL THIS NOTE -- USC led the Pac-10 in steals last season and leads it again this year with an average of 9.05 per game.

ASSISTS IMPROVEMENT -- USC has been passing the ball well lately, thanks to the 1-4 Ralph Miller offense that Jim Saia installed at USC this season. It's an offense that relies on passing and results in a lot of easy baskets and assists when run properly. The last two seasons, USC has averaged just 13.6 assists per game. So far this season, the Trojans have improved to an average of 15.33 assists per game (fourth in the conference).

PAST GLORY -- Fifty years ago this calendar year, the Trojans went to their last NCAA Final Four. The 1953-54 USC basketball team was coached by Forrest Twogood and was captained by forward Dick Welsh. The Trojans fell to Bradley, 74-72, in their semifinal game. Bradley went on to lose to La Salle (which beat USC earlier this season, coincidentally) in the NCAA title game.

NEW ARENA COMING -- Thanks to the generosity of Louis and Helene Galen, USC's athletic department has begun construction on The Galen Center--a new $114 million, 10,258-seat campus events center that will be home to USC men's basketball. Complete with locker rooms, offices and practice facilities for both basketball and volleyball, The Galen Center is scheduled to be completed in 2006.

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